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Music Industry Moves: DJ Khaled and We the Best Announce Three Executive Promotions - Variety

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We the Best Music Group CEO & founder DJ Khaled has announced the promotion of three executives: Nelly Ortiz has been named general manager and head of strategy & development, Jamie Crawford-Walker is head of digital strategy & creative content, and Aneesha Saleem is now executive director.
Ortiz, who previously held roles at Columbia Records, Roc Nation, and others, will oversee business development, branding, product partnerships, music, management, film and television, operations, and more for the label’s roster. Crawford-Walker, who joined We the Best in 2019 after three years at Epic Records, will oversee the creative content strategy and digital strategy across all We The Best and DJ Khaled’s channels. Saleem will oversee the We the Best Foundation — a 501c3 organization founded by the Khaled family focused on uplifting underserved communities across the United States and supporting various non-profits. Saleem started her career at the Magic Johnson Foundation and has over 18 years of experience in the nonprofit and corporate sectors.

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Khaled commented, “Nelly has been a consistent thread to the success of We The Best in all facets and is a true visionary executive. There is no other like Jamie who has been with us for over six years and counting now. She’s an expert digital strategist whose creativity is only matched by her incredible work ethic and results. I’m also excited to welcome Aneesha to the We the Best Foundation. She’s devoted her career to making the world a better place, and we’re going to do so together now. Congrats to all of you. Bless up and let’s win more!”
+ Digital music company Believe has appointed Alex Kennedy as managing director for the U.K. Reporting to founder-CEO Denis Ladegaillerie, he will lead the three business lines that Believe operates in the country: premium solutions (including label and artist solutions and artist services) and automated solutions (TuneCore), with a focus on fine-tuning Believe’s M&A strategy in the region. He previously held key roles at the platform Music Glue, Sky Tickets, Sky TV and Omnifone, and was founder and COO of the retail tech business Givvit.
Ladegaillerie commented, “Believe’s core focus is to support local acts at every stage of their careers in all 50 countries we operate in and the UK is no exception. The UK has become an import-first market, with streaming reshaping music consumption dynamics and international artists gaining further and further market share locally. It is thus key to fight for a more transparent and fairer treatment between international and local content in the UK, and I’m convinced Alex’s appointment will allow Believe UK to play its part in supporting local artists and labels against the domination of US acts in their own market.”
+ BMG is set to expand in Latin America with a new office in Mexico set to serve as its hub in the region. The company has begun recruiting for a general manager, synch and copyright staff and plans to open its doors in Mexico City mid-year. According to the announcement, the initial focus will be on developing services for BMG’s existing Anglo-American and Spanish language clients before building a local repertoire roster; as is company policy, it will offer music publishing and recordings under one roof.

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The Mexico operation will work closely with BMG’s U.S.-based Latin clients and BMG Spain’s local roster. In publishing, BMG’s U.S. Latin roster includes Erika Ender, Pitbull, Gente De Zona, Paloma Mami and many others; in recorded music, it includes Carlos Santana, Jory Boy, Darkiel, Lito MC Cassidy and more.
Dominique Casimir, EVP repertoire & marketing EU, APAC & LATAM, said, “Latin America is one of the most dynamic regions in music today. While we have a long history of working in these territories through third parties, now is the time to offer our clients an end-to-end BMG experience. We believe there is a significant gap in the market for our service-based ethic.”
+ James McKnight has been named head of entertainment research & development for Pophouse Entertainment, the Stockholm-based entertainment company co-founded by ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus. According to the announcement, he is charged with developing new and large-scale entertainment projects for global artist brands the company has invested in.
Current projects in the Pophouse stable include ABBA The Museum, Mamma Mia The Party and the Avicii Experience; McKnight will be looking to grow and expand this list with brands such as Swedish House Mafia as well the company’s future investments in intellectual property. He will remain based in London and will open a Pophouse office there; the company is lead investor and co-developer of the “ABBA Adventure” production and 3,000-seat bespoke arena in the city, which premieres next month. He joins after seven years at The Blair Partnership: The literary, entertainment and franchise management agency that represents J.K. Rowling and her work.
According to Pophouse CEO Per Sundin, ““As everyone who has met James can attest, he is a creative force and an incredibly inspiring person with an immense passion for storytelling and entertainment. His strong track-record of developing global IP rights and leading creative teams makes him a great fit for us, matching the ambition and scale with which we’re building Pophouse.”
+ Kobalt has promoted Lisa Bergami to VP of creative synch. Based in New York, Bergami will manage the New York synch team and continue working closely with the Kobalt roster. Before joining Kobalt in 2014, she interned at the Chicago-based music house and library, Music Dealers and worked as senior director of synch & creative licensing at The Bicycle Music Company.
“Simply put, Lisa gets the right music in front of music supervisors and consistently gets our songs placed in high profile advertising opportunities, said Rob Christensen, Head of Global Synch & Brand Partnerships, Kobalt. “Time is precious, and opportunities move quickly. Lisa knows how to anticipate the needs of her clients to find music that fits their project and that transcends a particular era or genre.”
The estate of the late Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel has signed an exclusive, worldwide agreement with Virgin Music US Latin and extended its agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group. Under the new deal, Virgin Music US Latin will now represent Juan Gabriel’s post-2008 catalog and future recordings, while UMPG will represent his entire catalog through an extended, exclusive global publishing agreement, bringing Gabriel’s music under the Universal Music roof.
New music will be released “in the coming months,” the announcement continues, including the highly anticipated “Los Duo 3, including duets with Mon LaFerte and Gloria Trevi as well as posthumously recorded duets. Billboard notes that Gabriel, who died in 2016, left behind dozens of unreleased recordings, including new songs and re-recordings of older ones.
Throughout his 45-year career, Juan Gabriel released more than 47 albums and helped popularize Latin music worldwide. One of the most popular Mexican singers in the history of Spanish language music, Juan Gabriel’s hits include “Hasta que te conocí,” “Abrázame Muy Fuerte,” “Querida,” “Amor Eterno,” and “Así Fue” among many others. The Latin music icon has sold more than 150 million albums, composed more than 1,800 songs and released 32 studio albums.
Ivan and Simona Aguilera, Juan Gabriel’s son and daughter-in-law, said: “After many years of work, we have put together a team of professionals that we believe have the qualifications that we have been searching for to represent my father and the legacy he left in my care. Our desire is to continue the vision my father had for the future of the Latin community, the Mexican culture, and the fine art of music he loved so much. My father wanted the world to experience his love for music, love for his beloved Latin culture, and to bring that experience to the world around him through music. Our dream is to continue what he started and to bring every beautiful thing he created and envisioned to the fans that stood by him all these years, and to future generations to come. We are proud of the team we have selected. We look forward to working together to bring to fruition all the work my father left behind. God Bless!”

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“I am very honored to have the opportunity to collaborate in preserving the great musical legacy of Juan Gabriel, who I consider the most prolific singer-songwriter and performer in Latin America. His influence, recognized around the world, is more alive than ever,” said Victor González, President, Virgin Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula.
Alexandra Lioutikoff, President Latin America/US Latin for UMPG, and Yadira Moreno, UMPG Mexico’s VP of New Business Development/Managing Director, said, “Universal Music Publishing is privileged to continue managing Juan Gabriel’s catalog. His impact to music across the world is unquestionable, Juan Gabriel has been a staple across Mexico and Latin America for generations, and we want to acknowledge the honor of being responsible for his works.”
+ The company behind the new 500-capacity music venue Brooklyn Made Presents has acquired two adjacent buildings and plans to open two additional music venues in 2023-2024 – a midsize 1,200-1500 capacity room and a larger 2,000-2,500 capacity space that will be connected by a bar and lounge, and can be combined to form a 4,000-capacity space. Located across the street from Brooklyn Made, the three venues will combine to form a music complex in the borough’s Bushwick neighborhood.
The two new venues will cover more than 22,000 square feet combined and like Brooklyn Made will feature lighting design by Jeremy Roth (Wilco, Dead & Company, Nathaniel Rateliff) and sound by D&B Audiotechnik. Covering more than 22,000 square feet, the two spaces will be built in partnership with the Brooklyn design & build firm LSC, the Production & Installation teams at Technical Arts Group (TAG), and City Production Services. The two rooms will be connected by a newly built bar and lounge, which can be opened up for special events to form a massive 4,000-capacity space.
President and CEO Anthony Makes comments: “These new acquisitions will enable Brooklyn Made Presents to compete in the NYC market at any level, and provide an ongoing home for bands at any stage in their career in our unique, elite, and uncompromised venues.”
+ Wachsman, a global communications and strategy consultancy serving the blockchain, fintech, and Web3 industries, has announced the opening of Wachsman Los Angeles, which joins locations in Singapore, Dublin and New York. The L.A. office is located in Beverly Hills and led by Ally Norton, previously of Shore Fire Media and SpinLab Communications.
“Since its inception in 2015, Wachsman has grown from a boutique New York-based startup to a 140 person global agency at the forefront of the most groundbreaking innovations of the century,” said CEO-founder David Wachsman. “Blockchain continues to permeate every facet of our lives - from healthcare to real estate to education to supply chain. Wachsman’s opening in Los Angeles is a reflection of its newest frontier: entertainment.”
+ Big Machine Label Group has promoted Erin D.D. Burr to VP of communications. Since joining the company nearly twelve years ago, she has worked closely with Reba McEntire, Carly Pearce, Florida Georgia Line, Sheryl Crow and many others.
“Erin Burr’s commitment to creating and executing media campaigns is unmatched,” said BMLG’s Senior Vice President of Communications Jake Basden. “Her tireless work ethic and love for the music has greatly impacted Big Machine Label Group and its roster of artists for over a decade. This incredibly deserving promotion to Vice President is a nod to the past and a celebration of a bright future.”
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